Anecdote on engineering “blinders” and snobbishness (if that’s a word)

I’ve always been struck by the blind spots in many engineering specialties.  You’ll hear it a lot w/r/t software “engineering”, but it is amazing to hear engineers and scientists disparage and ignore other “hard” disciplines, and even demonstrably more advanced applications.  To wit…

A customer of mine — a maker of instant photography products — had consistent problems with their manufacturing process.  By consistent, I mean for decades. 

Specifically, they had trouble uniforming depositing various reagents on the photo paper.  I’ve had semi-conductor and medical customers who had to deal with similar issues, so I asked whether they had considered reaching out to these industries for ideas.

The reaction was amazing: “What could they tell us about this…what we do is so complex…they wouldn’t understand”

I mentioned this to my brother — a Caltech chem-eng grad — and his reaction was priceless:

Oh yeah, I can see what they’re saying…how could anyone could know anything about their processes.  After all, it isn’t like photography hasn’t been around for 150 years!


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